Disclaimer: Not mine. The end. Dr. Akiko Mori and all original characters are creations of mine as is this story.

I had this idea for a scene with Matt and TK in the hospital. The rest of the story...including Dr. Mori grew from that point.

Comments are always welcome.

The Greatest Skill A Doctor Has

Part I

By Nicole Silverwolf

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."

-Dale Carnegie

"The better part of one's life consists of his friendships."

-Abraham Lincoln

The central hospital of Odaiba does not tower over its neighboring buildings. In fact it seems to rather be dwarfed by them even in the relatively small suburb. Still, the hospital is considered one of the best in all of Japan and even ranks high in the world for its doctors, technological advancements, medical research and world-class staff. The best doctors Japan and the world offer often come to study here.

They come from schools both far and wide. Columbia University Medical far away on the East Coast of America, the Medical and Pharmaceutical University of Saudi Arabia, and the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine. The walls of their offices are covered with degrees and commendations from most of the world's finest colleges, universities and medical schools.

The office of Dr. Akiko Mori, a member of the pediatric ward is no different. Walls covered with degrees from schools both in America and Japan. The room is cluttered with multi colored papers and files. A thin computer takes up a portion of the desk, while nameplates, pens, and dividers fill much of the leftover desk space. Miscellaneous trinkets and objects without a home or use have snuck into the empty spaces giving it an used/lived-in appearance. Bushy, overly round chairs for patients and their families sit opposite the desk and beyond it are the desks of several other doctors, also members of pediatrics. The room is cramped but the beds are more needed than the office space and so the three occupants share it without complaint.

There is a single window to the right over the desk of the doctor with the most seniority, an old man with spectacles and a quiet demeanor named Dr. Kido. The only occupant at the moment though was Dr. Mori. She sat with a few files in front of her and made periodic notes and scribblings on the pages.

"Dr. Mori?" A small voice asked from the door.

A woman in her early fifties looked up from the file and MRI scans she had been scrutinizing until a moment ago. Her hair was shoulder length, straight and jet black, still not showing the signs of old age that she had thought would be there by this time. She had a somewhat flat face and dark eyes like a hawk. Not overly thin or overly fat, she had always considered herself average and unspectacular. A plain white lab coat covered a set of light, blue-green, scrub pants and a colorful print scrub shirt. Her stethoscope and ID's dangled around her neck as well as a pair of glasses she only occasionally needed.

The voice belonged to a seven-year-old boy named Rintaro who visited the hospital periodically to be checked for leukemia. Having battled and won over the disease nearly two years ago his chances of complete and total recovery without chance of relapse were good. Still, his parents and his doctors were cautious and so every six weeks he was in for blood work and a general checkup.

He was skinny and tall for his age, a venerable weed in the making, black hair and a relatively light set of brown eyes. A cap covered his head constantly with an American baseball team--the Yankees--embroidered on top. Polite but bursting with energy he hoped to be a baseball player or a fireman when he grew up. Some things about little boys never changed no matter how many years went by.

"Hello Rintaro!" the doctor greeted warmly and gestured for him to take a seat. She rose and joined him in the adjacent seat. "And how are you doing today young man?"

"I'm doing great! Guess what? I'm the pitcher on our school's Little League team!"

"Really!" the woman asked sounding astonished and impressed in the same tone drawn in by the child's excitement. She had not seen him for several months, her schedule keeping her away while he was around.

"Yep! It's a lot of fun. I'm even gonna start in today's game! It's gonna be great." He slowed to catch his breath and remember his manners.

"How are you?" he asked politely.

"I'm very good. Been very busy lately. But tell me how you've been...I haven't seen you in quite a while!"

The boy then proceeded to relate the past few weeks to her in incredible detail.

Stories about his escapades at school, the pet cat, baseball (well mostly baseball), his older brother and younger sister, and a rather odd aunt that insisted that she was seeing people on the road signs that were high above the highway.

Dr. Mori could not get a word in edgewise.

"Rintaro?" came a concerned voice, obviously that of a mother looking for her child. Said mother, a moment later, peered around the door to the office and easily picked out the bobbing head of her son. A smile graced her weary features as she briefly met the eyes of Dr. Mori, who returned the smile and then retrained her interest on the boy speaking in front of her.

"Rintaro. Come on honey...we have to go and I'm sure that Dr. Mori has a lot to do today," she said as she walked further in and came around the chair so the boy could see her. He stopped his high speed talking and sent his most pleading look up to his mother.

"But mom! I didn't get to tell Dr. Mori about the game."

"You can tell her next time dear. You'll be late for your next game if we don't hurry and pick up your brother and sister."

"Oh," Rintaro looked torn between wanting to stick around and talk and the desire to go and play baseball. Dr. Mori smiled, a knowing one from years of experience.

"Rintaro? How about you tell me about that game and this game the next time you come to the hospital ok? I'll even see if I can set a little longer time aside so you can tell me everything. Besides I wouldn't want you to miss your first start."

"OK!" he shouted, clearly relieved. He bounced out of his seat and took his mother's offered hand. The mother smiled her thanks and gratitude for the few minutes of peace in an already stress filled day.

"Bye Akiko!" Came the farewell accompanied by a furious waving of his free hand.

"Bye, Rintaro!" she waved as he rounded and they left the room.

Seated back at her desk with a sage shake of her head she stared through the file open in front of her. It was not that it wasn't interesting, but rather that her mind was far away from the file and the present.

Her dark, nearly black eyes wandered to her desk and to the photos there. Several of her husband and her two children--now in college--and pictures of family and friends. And then finally to a somewhat larger and very prized drawing sitting framed at the corner of her desk.

Not every kid was like Rintaro she mused. In fact most kids weren't.

Kids were notoriously skittish around doctors; only seeing them when sick or hurt, or even worse, for the dreaded back-to-school physical complete with booster shots.

Some were shy, some were near hysterical and some were nasty, looking to catch an unsuspecting doctor off guard and avoid things like needles. They were often polite as well, but not overly friendly.

Except there were a few, like the artist of this picture who stood out in her mind as special. Those that she kept an eye on even after they had grown far beyond a pediatrician's care.

She put the file down and picked the frame up carefully. The drawing inside was a good 24 years old and she was careful, lest she break it after keeping it in her possession for so long.

"I wonder how they're both doing?" She wondered out loud.

9:26 PM

"TK, C'mon! This isn't funny TK." The little boy whispered; panic rising in each syllable. His hands shaking and round, slightly almond-shaped, slanted eyes were wider than saucers. He shook the three-year-old again, more forcefully and nearly cried when nothing happened.

Something was really wrong. TK always woke up if someone jostled him or moved him even an inch. He was breathing very quietly, barely at all as he lay on the floor surrounded by his favored colorful blocks and children's toys.

The seven-year-old blonde haired boy kneeling beside him was near panic. Dressed in a pair of long sleeved blue pajamas that were a little too big for his skinny body, he tried yet again to wake his baby brother.

Again the effort was met with no response.

Torn between staying by his brother's side and getting his parents to help he rolled up from his knees so that he was crouching next to TK's face. "I'm gonna go get mom ok TK? I'll be right back I promise. I won't be gone for long." The whisper held the childish lilt that could not be hidden, the dogged determination that marked any older sibling's voice, and most clearly the naked fear of young Matt Ishida.

Then the boy scrambled all the way up and ran from the bedroom on his small feet. Down the hall and around the corner where his mother was busy reading a book at the kitchen table and his father was watching the winter Olympics on the television. Their two sons were supposed to be in bed already and they were enjoying the rest of the evening, having nothing pressing to attend to.

"Momma?" the youngster managed to get out around his panic, still shaking as he pulled on her elbow.

The woman looked up at first, apparently not able to locate the source of the voice. But then she looked down to her oldest son whose head came just over the edge of the light mahogany table. And whose brilliant blue eyes were filling with tears of frustration and fear as he stood there.

"Yamato! What are you doing up? What's the matter sweetie?" she asked putting the book down and bending so she was looking straight into the boy's eyes. He was absolutely desperate by that point and the words tumbled over each other in their rush to get out.

"TK won't wake up, and he's not breathing right and I can't make him wake up and mom he's in trouble I think please, you gotta come help."

The woman looked alarmed for a moment but then regained her composure. "Oh it's ok sweetie you must have had a bad dream. C'mon I'll put you back in bed and I'll prove that TK's just fine."

Matt looked upset, but having accomplished the goal of getting his mom to come with him he dragged her resolutely down the hall. It wasn't important that she didn't believe him right then. She would soon.

The small bedroom was dim, the only light coming from a small lamp on the table next to Matt's bed and from the light streaming in the doorway. It cast odd shadows on the walls and partially covered the little boy that hadn't moved an inch since his older brother had left.

For Nancy it was nearly impossible to see. Her pupils wouldn't dilate fast enough and she was forced to stand in the doorway until her sight returned at least nominally. She really wasn't in the mood to bang her feet on the sharp edges of the boys' beds. Matt however, wriggled loose of her hand and sprinted across the room half-sliding half-falling next to TK.

"It's ok TK. It's alright. I brought momma see? I promised I'd be right back. TK please be ok please be ok. I promised I wouldn't leave...I promised." The little boy whispered making himself sound as brave as possible, forcing himself too. He was the big brother, mom had told him to set the example for TK. Dad had told him to watch over him. And now something was terribly wrong and he should have seen it coming or done something, or he should have known something was wrong.

"TK?" his mother whispered voice rising in a question. Her eyes were adjusting, and something was telling her that nothing was right.

"TK? Sweetie can you hear me?"

She was kneeling on the carpet now, her blue eyes growing wider with the early stages of panic, her voice edging closer to a high register. "TK? C'mon honey time to wake up!"

Nothing happened.

It wasn't his overactive imagination...something was wrong.

Really wrong.

He backed out of the way as far from his mother as he could but still held onto his brother's tiny hand, as tightly as he dared to. Dark blue eyes stared unwaveringly at TK's face, which was pale and drawn in pain. Something he hadn't noticed until now. The voices in the background were muted and all he could feel was his brother's hand and the salty tears running, sticking on the fine hairs that covered his face and dripping onto the carpet.

"RICHARD! Call 911!" Nancy shouted through shaky tears. A dark shadow passed over the door; the form of Matt's father.

His wife sat cradling their youngest son in her arms, surrounded by colorful toy blocks--the boy's favorite. One of the child's hands was wrapped in the near death grip of his oldest son, who was staring in a near catatonic state at the pale face of his little brother.

"TK..." It only took a few seconds for the reality to set in. But it still felt too long as the gravity of the situation sunk in as well. And then the shadow was gone as her husband and their father raced down the hall for the phone. Even inside the room with the now sobbing Mrs. Ishida the frantic words and directions were easy to hear as Richard directed the ambulance.

Matt held his brother's hand in utter silence, tears still falling, forgotten by his parents and more alone than ever. Even while surrounded by the closest people in his life.

There was a loud knock at the door about ten minutes later. Richard, still clutching the phone and trying to answer the dispatcher's questions, leapt into action. TK still wasn't responding to anything they were instructed to do, and his parents could offer no clue as to why he could be unconscious and unresponsive.

Two men were there, their voices were too low to belong to women.

"Yes they're here right now," Richard spoke to the dispatcher while ushering the two paramedics into the apartment. His voice had not gained any of its usual composure and he didn't care how distraught he looked or sounded.

The dispatcher ended the call with him then, advising Richard that the paramedics would be able to help his son now. Forgetting to thank her, he dropped the phone on the couch and led them back towards the boys' small bedroom.

"Hi, my name is Jonathan and this is my partner Jack." The first man, tall and well built said and gestured to his partner--a shorter--but no less built man. They carried a stretcher between them and an orange box containing medical supplies that were found in every ambulance. Richard only nodded his greeting.

"He's in here."

The room was small making it seem almost comical as they attempted to fit in. The shorter man--Jack--spoke first, his voice soft, firm and calm.

"Mrs. Ishida? My name is Jack and we're here to help your son ok?"

Nancy shook her head and silently relinquished her hold on the boy. The paramedics could do more good than she could and she knew it. Biting her lip to avoid making a scene, she fell backwards into her husband's embrace and let him support almost her entire weight.

Matt however--still latched to his brother by the death grip on his hand--would not give up so easily.

Jonathan noticed it first and looked towards Jack. They continued to unpack what they needed from the orange foam bag but Jack caught his meaningful glance with the years of experience that only partners could have. They knew the kid had to be moved or they wouldn't be able to work.

The parents were a mess, they probably didn't even realize the kid was there. Typically the child was silent--in shock more than likely.

So while Jack worked, checking vitals and for obvious signs of what might be wrong, Jonathan turned so he was crouching next to his obviously older brother.

"Hey kiddo," Jonathan started quietly and brought himself to eye level with the skinny little child. Yamato looked up, bewildered and still near tears. He was listening though.

"You gotta let go so we can help your brother TK. OK?" He continued.

The boy seemed to mull over this for a long minute. He turned startlingly blue eyes on the EMT and stared into their depths, seeking some kind of reassurance, some answer that would have to be there before he would let go. Satisfied but still fearful, he nodded jerkily his consent.

"Thanks kid." Jonathan smiled, "we'll take good care of him."

Matt slowly let go of the hand and backed away further towards the wall away from the adults but where he might be able to see. His parents chose that time to notice him as though he had appeared by magic.

"Yamato! Sweetie get out of the paramedics way!" Nancy called impatiently and roughly pulled the boy back next to them. She wasn't trying to hurt him, play favorites and she wasn't even angry with him. Later she wouldn't even remember it had happened, her concern for TK eclipsing everything else.

The two paramedics were rattling off numbers and letters to each other. BP, pulse, heart rates and instructions to each other that made little sense to the Ishida parents and no sense to Yamato.

He slid behind his mother's knees, clenching his hands in fists that shook with the emotions they were trying to hold in. Staring as the two men lifted and placed his brother on a bright yellow board--a stretcher--he stood rooted to the spot. "I'm sorry TK, this is all my fault. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." The boy repeated it very quietly around his tears.

Within minutes, the paramedics were ready to leave, slinging their supplies over their backs and holding a bag filled with clear saline up above their head, while an oxygen mask was fastened over the young child's face. The adults rushed from the room as one group.

"Where are you taking him?" Nancy was asking--hand out as if to stop them from leaving--her voice almost below hysterics. She stopped just short of Jack's dark blue coat and instead touched her son's arm. "Do you know what's wrong with him?"

"We're taking him to Odaiba General...it looks like he might be in a coma but we need to let a doctor determine what's going on exactly." The voice belonged to Jack who held it calm, steady and even, while at the same time trying to perform his own duties with the stretcher and the bag. Jonathan gave an encouraging smile, all he could do with one hand in the air and the other holding the stretcher up.

"I'm coming with you!" she shouted and grabbed a jacket off the hook on the wall. Matt had moved from his room to the living area forgotten in the rush to the ambulance and stood leaning against the wall, wide eyes still scared but upturned to hear the adults talking around him.

Jonathan looked about ready to protest. But he was the notorious softy of the EMT squad, which made his co-workers wonder why he had chosen such a hard job. "C'mon Mrs. Ishida. If you stay out of our way you can ride along. I don't see the harm."

She gave him a grateful look and glanced to Richard. He nodded and replied.

"We'll be right behind you Nanc."

The door was opened and they hurried out into the frosty night.

It was cold, hovering around the freezing mark and the air had that sharp bite to it that appears on such nights. A crusted over snow still pooled around the doorways and in the corners of the stairs. The sky was clear and sharp, pinpricks of light visible even through all the city light pollution. The air made thick clouds of smoke whenever one breathed and crisp silence echoed all around.

Several curious and brave faces watched from their doors as the stretcher went past; murmurs of worry and rumor passed along like ripples in a lake. The building was cast in odd shadows as red and white light alternately bathed the balconies and faces.

At the door, Richard watched until they had gone down the elevator and then quickly started to pull together the things he would need. The door was still open, red turning the carpet an odd color every few moments. A sneaking cold was forcing itself into the room, and it made the little boy shiver.

Pulling his wallet and his wife's purse from their place on the table Richard did not notice the sight of his son staring out the door, shaking from head to foot.

"Dad?" came a very quiet voice.

He stopped his frantic search for the car keys and looked up.

"What is it Matt?" His voice was strained, but soft and unaccusing.

"Is TK gonna be ok?" the question was so soft that Richard had to strain to hear it.

His father crossed the floor in two great strides and swung down to meet the boy's blue eyes, so full of questions. Yamato was trying very hard not to cry.

"I dunno Matt, that's why they're taking him to the hospital...to try and figure out what's wrong. Now c'mon, get your coat. We're gonna go to meet mom."

Still wearing his blue pajamas and far from satisfied with the answer he was getting he took the dark blue, sort of puffy winter coat that he was being offered. His father shoved his snow boots on his feet and zipped up the parka, apparently too distracted to notice that his son was only wearing a thin pair of pajamas. He swung Matt up into his arms (even though he was getting a bit big for that), grabbed the keys (which were on the wall where they were supposed to be) and hurried out the door.

Matt watched the entire event in a sort of removed fashion. He didn't need to make things worse so he kept quiet. Though he was desperate to ask so many questions, he recognized the frantic look in his father's eyes. Now was not the time to be a bother.

The rest of the short ride to Odaiba General was spent in silence, Matt sitting scared and silent in the back; his father sitting in the driver's seat, concentrating on seeing through the snow that was now thickly falling.

10:13 PM

"24 hours to go...just 24 hours and I'm in bed," she thought, and it was what kept her going on non-busy nights like tonight. It wasn't that she hated being a doctor, rather that after 24 hours without sleep she needed constant distraction to ward off drowsiness.

Unfortunately for her the entire ER was devoid of activity this evening. Not that that wasn't a normal thing--most nights in the ER were calm and relatively quiet--contrary to the popular television shows. Still she could have gone for a good adrenaline-pumping rescue right about then.

"Hey Akiko! On your left!" came a call from far down the hall by the service elevator.

The nurses and staff were bored it seemed as well.

Automatically she obeyed the command; moving as far to the right of the hallway as possible, knowing that if you didn't you were likely to get beaned by some sort of object flying, flinging or rolling by.

It so happened that a blue handball ricocheted off the floor down the hall at that moment and bounced along quickly, barely missing her as it flew into a supply cart a few feet further down.

"Score!" came the raucous chorus as they congratulated themselves on a spectacular basket. Akiko and a younger intern who had been standing near the door applauded as well.

The intern was new--only a few days in the ER rotation and his eyes widened in either wonder or fear. Possibly a little of both.

"Is it like this every night?" he asked.

"Sometimes; they're actually rather sedate tonight," She replied and rested nonchalantly against the doorframe as someone hurried by to retrieve the ball. Standing there, they could safely watch the game without risk of injury. It was entertaining she had to admit and it was taking her mind off a warm fluffy bed and pillow.

The head of the ER, Dr. Takuboku Ishikawa chose that moment to lean over the reception desk of the hall. He was a slim, tall man in his late forties, the quintessential doctor with wire-rimmed spectacles, clean cut look and a firm but calm, caring manner.

He ran the ER well.

"Dr. Mori! 3-year-old kid coming in ETA 2 minutes. Possible coma, possible poisoning, really unsure about what's going on here...I want you in with me."

She nodded once, short black hair bobbing in tempo and she crossed the hall towards him. Shorter by quite a bit she walked at his side as they hurried along. Though she would not be allowed to handle the case on her own, she appreciated his including her in the exam.

They swung into the familiar routine of setting up. Both doctors discussing possible reasons why a three-year-old would or could suddenly collapse--throwing ideas back and forth as they dressed and prepared. It was relatively quiet there, though nurses, techs and physician's assistants were now hurrying around at a great pace.

Controlled chaos at its best.

They heard the approaching sirens throughout the department almost a full minute before the ambulance pulled up. Dr. Mori and Dr. Ishikawa exchanged serious looks and moved from the room to meet the EMT's at the door.

Akiko had the distinct impression that this was going to be anything but a normal night. She didn't know what had even made her think that and brushed it off as unimportant. Now was not the time to be distracted.

The doors swung open and the ER team went to work.

11:21 PM

Matt very much decided that he didn't like hospitals.

A lot.

He was sitting in a big chair in the reception room. If he sat far forward his feet wouldn't touch the floor but if he leaned all the way and scooted back into the chair his knees didn't even reach the end of the cushion and his boots stuck out over the end. He was sitting somewhere between the two, his coat half on/half off and his feet swinging an occasional pattern in the air.

In the time since they had been here he had managed to stop crying. Perhaps it was because his brother wasn't there at that immediate second, or that he felt safe in the knowledge that his parents were taking care of everything. Probably a little of both.

He was also more than a little tired. He had been up late before, mostly on New Year's but generally was in bed at an earlier hour. Couple that with the fact that he had witnessed one of the scariest things ever and he was just a little too worn out to cry. He could still worry, just not as vocally.

Matt's parents had spent a lot of the first few minutes demanding answers.

Lots of them.

Yelling at the nurses and doctors first. But they couldn't give them answers yet and told both Richard and Nancy to wait and sit down.

Then a nice nurse came over bearing papers. A mountain of colored ones actually. She explained that they would have to be filled out at some point. Might as well do them now so that they could spend time with their little boy when the doctors said it was ok.

His mom had come over and knelt down with him where he had been told to sit in the deserted room.

"Matt, sweetie are you okay?" she asked genuinely concerned for her oldest son who had been pretty much ignored during the entire event. She knew he was a quiet boy, not shy really but more obedient. He would sit quietly if told to.

Matt looked at her, unwavering blue eyes locked innocently on hers.

Yamato Ishida tried to be brave all the time. It made him feel better but moreover was just something that older siblings did. They tried to be more grown up than they were. To prove to everyone that they were strong and could handle everything thrown at them.

So Matt, sitting there looking at his mom simply nodded his head yes. Though he was far from okay, he could see his mom's worry. He didn't want to be a bother. He never did. So he just nodded again to serve the point a little better.

"Ok sweetie. I want you to sit here and be good while your dad and I fill out these papers ok?"

She cupped the side of his face gently in her hands and stood up to move to another seat as he was nodding his assent again.

Had she not been so distraught she might have been able to tell that her son was far from fine with what was going on. He pulled his feet, still booted under himself and drew up into a small ball. Over the back of another chair he could just make out the door they said that his brother was behind. A muffled happy shout came from far away...people were playing a game down the hall.

Matt just stared at the door marked "Exam One Personnel Only Beyond This Point." He played idly with the long strings that were for his hood with his small fingers and tried to stay calm and awake.

11:51 PM

If anything Akiko wished she were still fending off sleep. An alternative, any alternative was better than what she was involved in now.

This was a bad case. Maybe that was why she had had that feeling before. She slumped against the wall outside the trauma room and ran her hand through thick black hair. And the worst part was probably still to come.

External exam. Nothing.

No internal bleeding.

Preliminary blood work. Nothing. They were working on the more detailed stuff now and were sending samples to the lab as she stood there.

X-rays. Nothing.

Head CT. Nothing.

Tox screen. Nothing.

Spinal tap. Well they were waiting on that. Didn't look promising though.

What the hell was wrong with this kid?

There was no apparent reason why a healthy, happy three-year-old was now lying in a coma in their ER.

The one good spot of news was that it was an apparently light coma. He was responding to pain stimulus, if only barely. He was breathing, though now with the aid of a tube laced under his nose. There was brain activity there also. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Dr. Ishikawa slid out the thickly swinging doors a moment later and walked up to join her.

"There's nothing we can do right now for the kid. We're gonna move him up to ICU in a couple of minutes. You and I however are going to talk to the parents."

Akiko's face fell and screwed up in a grimace at the same time. That was the worst part about pediatric ER...talking to the parents. She hadn't really wanted to deal with adults when she practiced medicine. Hadn't thought it would be such a big deal when she decided on pediatrics. She was a bit mistaken.

Kids were ok to work with, she didn't mind them nearly as much. Parents were just different she decided. They just looked at the world in a too hardened fashion.

"C'mon. You need the experience and I know how much you love this part of the job." He smirked playfully at that.

She in turn shot him a dagger look that could have killed if she had meant it. She straightened her white lab coat neatly and he did the same. One deep calming breath and they pushed open the doors back into the main lobby of the ER.

The place was mostly deserted save for three people. Two adults, sitting hand in hand leaning on each other--one crying slightly. She had short brown hair and Akiko assumed she was the mother. The father seemed alright but looked like he could really go for a cigarette right then to calm his nerves.

What caught her eye though was the child sitting next to them, forgotten it would seem by his parents.

Her dark brown eyes widened in slight surprise. Surely the unruly blonde haired boy was Takeru's brother. They looked very much alike. Apparently he was the one who had found his baby brother unconscious, on the floor of their bedroom. It must have been horrible for him.

He looked almost comical in appearance. Very out of place in pale blue pajamas, a thick dark blue winter coat and oversized galoshes that were made for snow pants not pajama bottoms.

But what was so sobering about him was the look on his face. Both petrified and determined in the same gaze. The boy seemed so much older and so much younger in the same instant.

Akiko tracked him with her eyes as they moved, turning slightly to fix him with a penetrating gaze. It was subtle but he didn't back down from it. Rather his back straightened just a little and he didn't blink at her.

Dark brown eyes stayed locked on the boy as the parents rushed up to both of them and nearly barreled them over in their haste.

"Mr. and Mrs. Ishida?"

They nodded in unison.

"It's nice to meet you. I'm Doctor Takuboku Ishikawa and this is Doctor Akiko Mori. We're the doctors that are at the moment in charge of your son Takeru's health."

Akiko, at the mention of her name broke off her watch over the child and directed her gaze and attention to the conversation going on next to her. She nodded shortly to both parents in greeting.

Mrs. Ishida was wringing her hands and Mr. Ishida was rubbing her shoulder as if he was trying to return circulation there--they were both nervous wrecks. This wasn't going to be easy.

"What do you mean at the moment? He's alright isn't he?" Richard demanded focusing on Dr. Ishikawa exclusively. Dr. Akiko, whether she wanted to be or not was not much more than background at that moment. Dr. Ishikawa took it in stride, raising his hands in a placating manner and despite his shorter stature managed to have complete control over everything occurring. He started to explain the situation.

Yes their son appeared to be out of immediate danger. No he was not awake. Yes they were his doctors but once he was moved to the Pediatric ICU his care would change over to his primary care physician and the doctors and staff up there. No they at the time could not determine why the boy had collapsed nor why he was now in a coma. For the moment it was a wait and see type of ordeal.

"When will they know what's wrong with him?"

They would be able to rule out several things such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia when the tests came back from the lab.

"When can we see him?" Nancy asked quietly, too in shock to cry, her voice quavering.

"We'll take you up as soon as they move him."

Dr. Ishikawa continued to talk, both Richard and Nancy asking questions and the doctor going into more detail about the situation.

Akiko's beeper at that time decided to go off. It was a quiet sound, muffled by the encasement To avoid being rude and to allow the Ishida's and Dr. Ishikawa to continue their conversation she bowed ever so slightly and stepped back from them all. Walking a few paces away she stopped, head bent down and eyes on a tiny black beeper attached to the waistband of her bright blue scrubs.

"Akiko...22 to go...you can do it!" ran across the light green LCD screen. A message from her best friend Kakuei. Typical, she smiled leave it to the computer whiz to spend his free time bothering her. She reclipped the beeper to her pants and shoved her free hands into the deep pockets under the coat. She might have laughed at it if things weren't so bad right now.

That thought brought her back to the present. Not to the conversation going on between the parents, but to the small bundle sitting in the chair behind them. Again she was caught in the gaze of someone who seemed far older than seven at that moment. And who seemed a bit too alone in all of this.

Making a firm decision she took slow seemingly non-deliberate, deliberate steps towards the row of plastic chairs.

Matt had decided that no one was going to tell him what was going on. But from the way his mom was standing, and the way his dad was half holding her up, he just knew the news wasn't good. The doctor, an old guy who seemed really tall kept shaking his head no. And he just could feel it, deep inside in the pit of his stomach. TK was far from ok. Really far.

Maybe he was dead. That thought jumped with sickening clarity into his mind and it suddenly made all the sense in the world to his young mind. No one was letting them see TK, and mom and dad were both really upset and TK hadn't been breathing good in the room so long ago. Tears cropped up instantly. Quietly though, so that no one heard him and so that his shaking shoulders were all that testified that anything had changed.

Akiko noted the difference, and stopped right next to him. She crouched and after a moment slid to her knees. This might take a little longer than first planned.

"Hey," she asked her voice a compassionate question, in the kind of voice that said 'please don't cry'. She reached out and touched a small hand balled on top of the boy's pajamas to try and get his attention. It seemed to work for he looked up, like a kid caught doing something he shouldn't have.

Akiko almost gasped out loud. As it was she couldn't say a thing for a moment.

This kid had the most amazing set of blue eyes she had quite possibly ever seen.

They were large and a dark marine color that was clear and liquid. But it was more than color or shape. The way you could see every emotion in those eyes. She had never seen anything quite like it.

"What's your name?" Akiko asked. She didn't think he would answer if she started off with 'what's wrong'.

The kid was quiet for a long moment as he watched her. Wiping tears from his face he gulped in air that crying had deprived him of. It was a struggle to keep her gaze steady and unblinking. She would have laughed had she considered that she was having a war of wills with a seven-year-old. With her being twenty-one years older and all.

"Yamato, but nobody calls me that. I like Matt."

"Do you mind if I call you that?"

The boy gave her a kind of quizzical look as if confused that she was asking permission. He nodded yes.

She smiled calmly and nodded. "It's nice to meet you Matt. My name is Dr. Mori." She hastily continued, wishing to sound more informal than not.

"But I don't really like that name; it's too big and fancy. You can call me Akiko. That's my first name."

Matt simply nodded at that. She had kind of hoped he would have been more receptive, but that was a bit much considering how late it was and how much he had gone through this night.

"Do you mind if I sit down? The floor's a little uncomfy."

He cracked a genuine, if small smile at that. Nodding approvingly, she pulled herself up to sit on the edge of the seat. Leaning forward Akiko braced her elbows on her knees and looked back over her right shoulder. Since her hair was pushed behind her ear she had a clear view on the same level as Matt. Stethoscope and ID tags dangled from around her neck making the slightest clinking sound.

They sat in silence for quite a while. Matt spent most of the time staring at his fingers playing with the hood string on his jacket. Akiko didn't move much except to follow the child's hand movements with her eyes. Swiveling her stethoscope between her hands was the only other movement between the two of them.

After a few minutes he came to some sort of decision about her. Perhaps if it weren't so dire a situation he would have sat and not said a word.

"You're a doctor right?" he asked hesitantly.

She nodded yes.

"Are you a stranger? I'm not supposed to talk to them."

Akiko nodded sagely. "Well, I don't really know you very well so I guess we're kind of like strangers. But I don't think that your parents will mind if we talk, because I'm a doctor."

Without hesitation then he plunged forward.

"Have you been a doctor for a long time?"

"Well it takes a lot of years to become a doctor. I've been an official doctor for a few years though. Now I'm in something called residency where I learn from other doctors how to treat patients."

"But you're still a doctor?"

"Yep, residency just means that I'm still learning more, since doctors have to know so much. Kind of like being an apprentice."

"Oh, OK." He responded; satisfied with the answer.

"So can I ask you a question now?" Akiko flashed a quick grin at him. His eyes and his blonde hair were all she could see over his pajama bottoms. It was fair, Matt thought, you ask a question and they get to ask one back. He nodded and the blonde spikes bobbed up and down.

"Why were you crying so hard?"

Akiko was worried for a split second that the kid was gonna clam up on her and say nothing. He had stiffened slightly at the question and the young doctor was worried that she had moved too swiftly to the topic of why he was here. But much to her relief he looked up into her dark brown eyes, held his near tears in and answered.

"Cuz my brother TK's sick and I think he might be dead and no one tells me what's going on and I'm really scared and I don't know if he's alright. It's my job. I'm supposed to take care of TK. He's my little brother!"

A loose tear leaked out of the corner of his eye as he looked up at her. Akiko furrowed her brow in compassionate worry.

Boy this kid had an active imagination. He managed to convince himself that his brother might be legitimately dead in only an hour. But considering how little he probably knew about the situation that might be understandable.

She was reasonably sure that no one had stopped or bothered to explain what was going on to the kid. After all he was just that...a kid. Why would he need to understand what was going on? Sometimes adults were very obtuse like that. Just because the kid was little didn't mean that he couldn't understand a lot. Akiko and most pediatricians gave children in general a great deal of credit. In fact if Dr. Ishikawa wasn't as involved with the parents he would have been here trying to help this young boy understand what was going on.


When she was sure that she had his attention she continued.

"Matt, I was one of the doctors who was helping your brother TK. He's not dead; I know that. He is really sick and we need to keep him hear till we can find out why. Then we'll be able to help him get better."

"He's sick? Like he has the chicken poxs or a cold or cancer?"

"Kind of...we don't really know what's wrong with him. That's what we're trying to find out."

Matt screwed his face in concentration. "He wasn't breathing right. I remember he wasn't breathing good. Is he really ok?"

Those eyes locked on her in a desperate plea for answers. Akiko smiled slightly though it felt false even to her. He must be a very devoted older brother she decided.

"Yeah, they put a special tube, under his nose so that he can breathe better. He's ok for now."

Somehow that didn't seem to reassure him like it should have. There was just so much going on that he didn't understand. Telling him about one thing would only upset him about others. And if left to his parents he would probably be told too much or not nearly enough...end up leaving him more confused than ever.

Generally in the ER you treated someone to the best of your ability and then sent the patient either home or off to another area of the hospital to continue treatment. That was the way all ERs worked. But there had been times when she and other doctors had followed a case through to its end. Not many but there had been a few. It had been about ten minutes since they had come out from the exam room. They should have moved TK up to PICU by now. And she realized in some detached way that somewhere along the line she was going to follow this case through to its end.

"Hey Matt. How about we go and see your brother right now?" Akiko asked in a slightly conspiratorial voice, play acting just a little to lighten the mood. The idea was simple--let the kid see his baby brother (whom it was obvious he adored) and ask all the questions he wanted without his parents around and with someone who could answer them in his terms.

The kid looked like he could use a little reassurance right about then.

Yamato Ishida for one was sure he must have heard wrong. This doctor was telling him that he could see his brother! But mom and dad had said that they weren't allowed to see TK yet. But this was a doctor and she was in charge. Without hesitation he nodded his head a vigorous yes and uncurled from the tight ball he was tied in.

Akiko wasn't surprised to see the change in the boy. He looked much more like a seven-year-old in that moment. Eager, friendly, open and innocent he scooted off the chair and held out an open hand to her as if to say, 'Hurry up let's go right now!' She gracefully took it in her own and stood up. She only had to bend slightly--the boy was quite tall for his age--skinny as a rail too.

Looking up towards Dr. Ishikawa she caught his eye with a discreet wave of her hand. The parents were still in discussion with him so he only gave a glance. She knew she had his attention though.

Pointing down to the boy standing, clinging to her hand and staring towards the door she held her hand palm up and flashed it open twice--motioning for him to give her ten minutes. It would be more than enough time. He in turn gave her a quick smile and the slightest movement of the head as permission. She knew he had asked the parents if it was alright.

"Ok Matt, let's go see your brother," she said and guided him, hand lightly on his back towards the elevators. Smiling he walked along at her side, still needing to take two steps for every one of hers no matter how slow she went.

"What about mom and dad? Won't they be worried? When can they see TK?" he asked, now looking up at her instead of forward towards where they were headed.

"Your mom and dad are gonna meet us with your brother in a couple minutes. Dr. Ishikawa, my boss, is still talking to them. Don't worry, he told your parents where we're going."

"OK," the boy accepted it without question as they stepped onto the elevator along with an elderly man who leaned heavily on a cane.

"So am I allowed to ask another question?" she asked conversationally as they rode along.

"Yeah so we're not strangers anymore," Matt said as he watched her push the button for the twenty-fifth floor.

"What's your favorite cartoon? I like Sailor Moon."

A little boy's laughter rang out through the closing doors.

"No way! You watch cartoons? But you're an adult!"

12:12 AM

The two golden-colored doors slid closed with a quiet ping as the two former occupants walked slowly out.

"Where are we?" Matt asked, looking around down the long hallway. The hall didn't look very different from the other they had just been in. It was similarly devoid of activity much like the ER was. But there was an air of tension here that hadn't been downstairs. Partially due to the nature of such a place.

"This is the Pediatric ICU."


"Well its long name is Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Children who are very sick and who need to be watched constantly stay here."

"Like TK." He quietly replied and looked down towards two booted feet.

Akiko walked at the same pace but softened her voice slightly. It took on a slightly cautious tone as she was choosing her words very carefully.

"Yes. A lot of the kids here are very sick. Some, like your brother TK, are here because we're trying to figure out what's wrong with them. This way we can keep an eye on them so that if something bad happens we can get them help sooner."

"How come you don't know what's wrong with my brother? You're a doctor aren't you? Doctors know everything."

Dr. Mori gave a bemused grin at that. The kid was not afraid to speak his mind at least.

"Yes I'm a doctor but that doesn't mean I know everything. Sometimes even doctors can't figure out what's wrong with people when they're sick. We try to narrow it down using all kinds of tests but sometimes that doesn't work."

They slowed and stopped in front of a tall light blue desk--the nurses' station--and their conversation was forced to stop for a second. Akiko leaned over the desk, pulling herself off the ground to speak to the nurse. Yamato thought it looked kind of funny, a grown person acting like a little kid. He smiled a little.

"Nurse?" she asked. "A patient of mine was brought up here a couple of minutes ago...Takeru Ishida? Can I get the room number he's in?"

"Sure Dr. Mori," the man replied calmly and moved swiftly to find the chart on the efficiently organized desk.

"Looks like he's in 421. I think you remember where that is Akiko?" He smiled from behind shaggy black hair.

"Yep, thanks Harold. Are you done settling him in? We'd like to go see him."

She had landed on her feet again and was turning towards the hall where room 421 was located.

We? he mouthed.

"Oh! Where are my manners? Howard, I'd like you to meet Ishida Yamato...but he prefers Matt." Akiko stepped back with a flourish to reveal the boy standing next to her, trying to see over the desktop. He was balancing precariously on tiptoe to do so. He smiled his hello, noticeably calmer than when he had first met Akiko.

"Hey Matt nice ta meetcha!" the tall man said leaning over the barrier and taking the tiny offered hand in his very large one and giving it a firm shake. "You're a very brave kid. You probably saved your brother's life!"

Matt had been smiling up until he was reminded of his brother. At that he lowered his eyes, then looked to Akiko imploringly.

The girl smiled down reassuringly at him and squeezed his hand slightly. "If you'll excuse us Harold we have a patient to visit."

Harold was far from blind and far from insensitive. He only smiled in a knowing kind of way and held out his hand like a stagehand to a coach drawn by horses.

"Then by all means, please don't let me keep you," he intoned theatrically but with that little touch of seriousness that wasn't laughable.

Matt waved solemnly as they walked past the station and down to a bank of windows and doors. They both stopped in front of a door marked 421.

Akiko stopped and knelt down by him, placing hands on his skinny shoulders and looking him square in the eyes.

"Matt, I gotta tell you some things about what you're going to see in that room ok."

He nodded.

"When we go in your brother's room, he's gonna look a lot different from when you saw him before ok? He has a lot of wires on him and that tube under his nose to help him breath. Like I told you before. He's in something called a coma, which means it's like a deep sleep. You can ask as many questions as you want. I'll do my best to help you understand what's going on. Ok?"

Matt considered her for a long moment. He had never met anyone who treated him like an adult before. It wasn't something he was used to. Being allowed to ask as many questions as he wanted was strange. His teachers always scolded him for asking too many questions because they never got any teaching done.

But Akiko said as many as he wanted. More importantly she was promising to tell him the truth. And that was something of a comfort that she wanted him to understand what was happening to his brother.

Akiko returned the smile she was getting from him. "Ready?"

Brow down in determination and a deep breath later he shook his head, a sharp yes. "Ready."

The doctor stood slowly, put her hand on the doorknob: cool, smooth metal and gently depressed it. There was a quiet click sound and the door swung open without a single other sound.

Matt wasn't sure exactly what he would see when he entered the room. His imagination had tried to fill in the gaps but that was different when faced with the real thing. He was trembling ever so slightly, partially from nerves, partially cold and mostly from sheer worry.

The room was dim, giving a horrible sense of déjà vu to the whole scene. Spartanly decorated at best, the colors extremely neutral in nature. Two fluorescent bulbs were turned down and the one light that was on illuminated the single bed.

Akiko led the way inside, moving around the bed and picking up the chart hanging from the box at the end. She began scanning it swiftly, flipping between pages and reading the notes made. Her eyes and mind were focused on the papers but a part of her knew it was more show than anything. Honestly she was more concerned with the young boy standing there than with reading the chart right at that moment.

An advocate of privacy, she wanted to give Matt a chance to approach his brother without prying eyes, or someone breathing over his shoulder. She tried to act like an observer. Distanced and not involved. But ready if needed.

The bed was tall, from Matt's point of view at least. He could only see the top from where he stood at the doorway. There were a lot of scary looking tubes and bags around the room, mostly concentrated around the bed. But what held his interest most keenly was the tiny figure lying dwarfed on top of the white sheets.

A stricken look entered the child's eyes: a heartbreaking mix of fear, sadness, horror and guilt and for a moment Akiko could barely believe that a face that young could hold so many emotions. She focused on the chart, her eyes rereading the already vague and inconclusive results she herself had recorded. Maybe there was something there she had missed. Please let there be something there she missed.

He stood rooted at the door for a long moment, trying to reconcile his laughing energetic baby brother with the child lying so still there now. He slipped forward suddenly and rushed up to the bed.

"TK?" was all Matt could say as he leaned forward and slid his hand out up over his shoulder to try and reach for his brother's tiny hand. Encased in gauze with two separate IV's running in, the older boy couldn't see it to avoid it, or even know it was there.

It wouldn't have mattered because although Matt was tall he wasn't nearly tall enough to reach halfway across the bed. He stood on tiptoe but it only gained him a few more finger lengths towards his goal.

On tiptoes though he could just barely see over the edge of the crisp white sheets. The bottom of his vision was a bit obscured but he could see his brother. Matt had always known his brother was little for his age but he looked so vulnerable lying there surrounded by so many colored wires and tubes. It was a little more than scary.

He strained to gain a few more inches on the bed. It wasn't that much further to reach him.

Perhaps a little further than he thought. It just wasn't working, his hand still too far from his little brother's. Blue eyes widened in desperate sadness. He just had to reach his brother, just hold his hand to tell him he'd be alright.

He had to.

Jumping just a little he managed to get a firm hold on the end of the bed. By bringing his feet up in front of him under the big thing Matt managed to stay up off the ground a good four of five inches. It was hard to hold though and tiny hands balled into fists to help keep balance.

The problem now was that he couldn't accomplish what he'd set out to do by jumping/hanging on the bed. If he let go and scooted his hand towards his brother Matt could feel himself losing the precarious balance he had established. And if he didn't what would be the point?

So he tried anyways. "I won't fall," he determined in that invincible way that all children believe they have, pushing his hand forward until he was only a few centimeters from TK's hand.

He could feel it an instant before it happened. One second he had himself safely balanced and was almost there. The next he knew he was falling.

Except he never made it there.

"You know, I really don't think that that's the best way to see your brother. Personally I like sitting on the bed. Or standing on a chair."

Matt, who had been stunned into silence through the whole thing, opened his tightly closed eyes and looked up into a set of dark brown eyes. Akiko smiled gently and pulled him from the awkward position he had landed in her arms.

'Heavy little squirt,' she thought absently as she shifted his weight so that he was situated more comfortably on her hip.

"So how 'bout it? Bed or chair?" she asked, looking into blue eyes with a kind of appraising but bemused sort of glint to her eyes.

"Bed," the boy replied and she walked around said monstrosity.

"I kinda figured," she laughed gently.

"No shoes on the bed though ok?" She gestured to the big snow boots still encased around his pajamas. At least they were dry. She slid one off carefully and set Yamato down lightly on the edge. It was so large that Matt could sit at the end and still leave nearly a foot between him and his brother. He shrugged out of the coat that was nearly all the way off already and she took it as well.

With a tug and a turn she had the other boot off revealing white socks that were coming off a bit in the front. The heel of the sock was somewhere near the arch of the foot. Akiko ignored it though she was itching to grab it and put it back on correctly.

"Be careful. No touching any of the wires and no touching that hand alright?" She gestured towards the hand Yamato had been reaching for and scooted him up till he was kneeling on the left side of his brother, next to TK's waist. There was plenty of room between them and the edge of the bed.

Without waiting for an answer, she backed away and rested her hands on the metal rails that encased the bed. "I'll be outside waiting for your parents. If you wanna ask me anything just say my name."

Maybe the questions would come later. But right now there was a little boy who badly needed to simply talk to his little brother and make sure he was fine. To him that was the most important thing there was. The other stuff just wasn't right then.

Snagging the chart as she passed swiftly around the bed, Akiko slipped out the door and stood just outside it, back leaning against the doorframe and eyes sweeping the corridor then back down to the papers.

Matt looked down at his little brother from where he knelt. Now that he was here he was almost afraid to touch him for fear of hurting him further. There were far more wires on the child than were previously visible from the ground. They snaked in and around and over TK's body like shiny, colorful vines.

Very carefully and with a great deal of trepidation a slightly larger hand came out and slid around the slack, tiny one.

"TK? It's me Matt." He spoke hesitantly to the youngster lying so still next to him. His young face lit up hoping against hope that some sort of miracle would come and his brother would wake up. But when nothing happened his eyes fell and he bit his lip hard between his teeth.

He couldn't cry. TK needed him to be brave right now. So he swallowed hard.

"TK I dunno if you can here me but Akiko says she thinks that you can. So I think I'm gonna believe her. She's really smart TK. You'll like her. She's one of the doctors here and when you wake up I'll let her meet you."

Matt stopped his monologue and inspected his brother's face for any sign that he had been heard. The boy remained unresponsive.

He continued in a very quiet voice, just above a whisper. The child was rubbing small circles over TK's hand. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there to figure out what happened. I know I'm supposed to make sure you never get hurt. I just couldn't this time. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Please wake up TK. Please wake up. You're really scaring me. Please."

A small tear slid down his face and landed on the sheet, staining it an odd off white as the moisture soaked in.

He tightened his grip as he continued.

"You're gonna be fine TK," he whispered fiercely. "I'm not gonna let you die! I promise that with everything I've got! I promise on my harmonica even."

The odd but childish remark seemed more sincere in that moment than nearly everything else he had said.

Awkwardly, steering far wide from the wires he had been warned against touching, Matt scooted down till he was lying next to his little brother. His head was even and level with the child's and his hand was still intertwined with the other's.

Lying there in silence Yamato Ishida could barely keep his eyes open. Things had suddenly caught up to him and utter exhaustion was rapidly overtaking the seven-year-old. Still clutching his younger sibling's hand in his own his eyelids drooped until they were closed.

He only barely noticed when Akiko reentered not carrying the chart but rather a thick blue blanket she had procured from the supply closet. Tucking it expertly around the child, he watched in muddled confusion as she gently worked it over TK as well, carefully avoiding their intertwined hands and making sure it was tightly tucked around the younger Ishida as well.

"Get some rest Matt. Your mom and dad'll be here in a minute. TK's fine right now."

He nodded once and a huge sleepy yawn escaped him. Marine, dark blue eyes closed and he was fast asleep in a few seconds, a small hand still tightly clutched around his younger brother's.

Akiko stood watching quietly for a long moment. She wasn't one very much for sentimentality, more caught up in science than anything. But it was very hard to deny that there was something very rare, unique and special about these two brothers. Something that one didn't get to see often if at all.

Strange how thoughts connected sometimes. Standing there she was slightly surprised that she reflected on her bedside manner. In the last review of her performance it had been a point both of the reviewers had stressed she needed work on.

But it had been so easy, so natural to sit down and start talking to this kid. It surprised even her. Maybe this was just a matter of a little practice, getting the bedside manner stuff down.

She looked down at Matt critically as if unsure that was the real reason. Maybe.

Dr. Ishikawa was asking for the room number down the hall and she moved quickly for the door. This moment for better or worse had to be interrupted. But she could prolong it for just a few moments longer.

The cool and collected demeanor of Dr. Mori slid back over the face of Akiko. It wasn't that she became a different person, more like she took on a more professional tone. Less smiling and a more guarded approach.

With a final long glance over her shoulder she slid out the door carefully and closed it with a nearly soundless click behind her.

Pushing her thick black hair behind her ear out of habit she dropped all pretense of looking at the chart held under her arm. It hadn't changed in the last few moments.

Takeru and Yamato's parents looked worse than when she had left them. Nancy was leaning hard on Richard as they followed the elder Dr. Ishikawa down the hall. They made an odd looking procession. Coupled with the fact that it was nearly one in the morning and anything was bound to look a little odd though.

Straightening slightly, Dr. Mori put her game face on and bowed slightly towards all of them. Both parents looked at her, vaguely remembering her but attention on the door instead.

"Where's Yamato?" Nancy asked looking at her sharply. She worried for a moment that her other son was sick, or abandoned, or worse.

"He is inside Mrs. Ishida. The events of this evening have taken quite a toll on your son. He was very tired when I brought him up hear already. He fell asleep after talking to his brother for a little while."

"TK's awake?" Richard asked his eyes lighting with hope.

Akiko corrected her mistake in wording, nodding her head no.

"I'd like to see my sons now." Nancy stated in a shaky but firm voice. She pushed off Richard and stood waveringly in front of the door, arms wrapped under elbows and quiet blue eyes daring anyone to contradict.

Akiko had the distinct pleasure of nearly retorting 'well I'm not stopping you' but managed to hold her tongue. She nodded and needlessly put her finger to her lips for quiet.

Pushing the door slightly, it swung open. Having not closed it before it only creaked slightly as she did so.

"TK!" Though quiet, the absolute relief and anxiety of Nancy Ishida was palpable in the room. Both parents rushed the bed and reached over to touch their youngest son. Akiko thought it so different from Matt's desperate attempt to climb up to his brother.

Nancy brushed her hand over Takeru's eyes, gently moving thin blonde hair out of his face and revealing features that almost seemed like sleep. If not for the tubes running under his nose and the two IV's running into his hand she could almost convince herself that Matt had just fallen asleep with his brother in their bed at home.

Matt was known to do that on occasion; sitting with his brother through nightmares or stories and then falling asleep next to him on the bed. Much like they had now, with locked hands or arms over the shoulder, buried in each other's arms. Most nights neither she nor Richard had the heart to separate the two.

Sinking into a chair settled next to the bed she could barely contain herself. She started to cry, quiet but heaving in great gulps of air.

"Oh Gods Richard, what are we going to do?"

Richard didn't say a word. There was something about his expression that told both doctors that he really wasn't prepared for what he was seeing. The shell-shocked look in his eyes was haunting enough. He kept running his hand through his thin-cropped hair and looking fervently at his son.

Dr. Ishikawa caught Dr. Mori's eye carefully. She nodded and they both removed themselves from the room as discreetly as possible. Across the barren hall they both leaned against the wall facing each other. Akiko's arms were crossed over the chart in her arms and he was leaning, one arm braced against the whitewashed wall.

"So, how's it look?" he started eyeing the chart meaningfully. She handed it over with just an exhausted flop. Biting a lip to keep from saying something she would regret later Akiko rolled her eyes to the ceiling.

"Bad, though I think you're prepared for that," she retorted. Dr. Ishikawa was flipping through the charts carefully, a crinkling as paper was moving being the only rhythmic break in the silence.

"So far there isn't a single reason, medically speaking why that little three year old in there is in a coma."

"Well I wouldn't be so pessimistic Akiko. We still have to wait for the labs to come back and you know it takes a while for them to do those analyses. Don't be so quick in your judgements." The last statement held a slight disapproval in it and she had the intelligence to at least look chagrined.


"Besides, this case is now in the hands of the staff up here. We need to go back down soon. It's the way the ER is."

"I'm gonna follow this one through. I mean when I don't need to be in the ER of course sir," She countered sheepishly looking down at the chart in his hands though she could not read it.

He watched her for a long moment as she fidgeted with her hands and glanced back through the door across the way. She could see the small family in sharp relief and shadow as she stood there. Nancy sat still peering into her younger son's face and Richard gripped the other side of the bed watching the two children sleep.

"We're needed back downstairs. You can check on them later. They can't all spend the night here unfortunately. We won't know anything definitive until the morning or possibly afterwards. I'll inform Howard that you will continue to consult on this case and arrange for you to come up here as much as your schedule may allow."

He looked past her shocked features, slack and gaping. "I'll see what else I can do about letting the parents stay here. I don't know how effective it may be."

"Thanks Takaboku. I don't know what to say."

"Say 'I'll write up the next three weeks schedules' and you'll have paid me somewhat back for what you've asked for." He grinned and headed down the hall.

Smiling, she turned back to the room and when she looked carefully she could see the two brothers lying side by side. Quietly she slipped away down the hall.

6:50 AM

A large dry-erase board was covered in neat multi-colored handwriting within a few hours. True to word Dr. Mori was organizing and setting up the schedule for the next few days. It would fall to her to do so for the next two weeks or so as a part of her agreement.

At least it had helped to pass the time. From four till six she had done nothing but learn the ropes of the board and set it up. Yawning she stretched up from the seat she had been using up until then. The night had wound up with only a few more cases. Several drunkards, a slip and fall, a heart attack that hadn't been serious and a man not too long ago who had 'fallen out of bed' as he put it and claimed to have broken his wrist. Three weeks ago.

He was in x-ray now but other than the occasional passing tech or physicians assistant it was a quiet winter morning.

Slamming down the cap onto the top of her black marker she grinned triumphantly to two nurses who had been sitting watching her while drinking coffee and organizing old charts and files.

"Done." She stated simply.

"Now you know while Ishikawa likes to drop it on unsuspecting residents and interns." One laughed to her.

Passing around the counter and heading for the doors to go and find some food she only raised her eyebrows in conspiratory understanding. Dimly she registered that the elevator light had come on and that a ding announced the arrival of one of the cars on the floor. But it wasn't until she looked up that she recognized anything significant.

It was Richard Ishida. Carrying a blue draped bundle on one shoulder and holding a familiar set of black galoshes and a blue puffy coat in the other. The blue drape was the blanket she had brought to put over the boys several hours earlier. Now it was wrapped around a still fast asleep Yamato who was wrapped much like an Eskimo. His head was cradled in the niche between his father's head and shoulder. Face turned outwards she could see how calm the child looked in sleep.

"Mr. Ishida?" She queried, carefully positioning herself so that she could be seen.

"Oh ahhh doctor...Mori right?" he asked in a less distracted manner than when they had first met.

"Yes, Is everything all right?"

"I need to find my car. My wife and I, we both decided that Matt should go home. And I have to call work, call their teachers, Matt can't go to school like this. He's had to deal with too much tonight as it is. I just need to take him out of here. Do you know where the parking lot is? I'm a little turned around and I don't quite remember how I got here."

"Actually I was headed out to the breakfast place down the block, I can take you right to the parking lot if you'd like." She responded. He just looked worn out and tired now.

"That would be very kind of you doctor."

"My pleasure," she was reminded of her manners as she took the galoshes and coat from his hands and pushed open the double doors out to the street.

Most of the early morning stroll was spent in silence. Neither adult had much to say to the other, and even if they had there was just too much else on their minds. The pre-dawn freezing chill had yet to wear off and Akiko pulled her lab coat firmly around herself as she walked. Richard checked that Yamato was securely wrapped and held him a little tighter. The boy snuggled closer to his father, sensing the drop in temperature.

The walk was only perhaps a minute long and soon they were next to Nancy's car, a recent model Mazda that was a dark brick red. Richard shifted carefully to get his car keys from his pocket with a practiced ease.

They came out easily enough and the door was open within a moment. Akiko put the boots onto the floor in the back seat but balled the coat up carefully--inside out--so that it could act as a pillow.

Gently his father set the little boy inside, still wrapped in the blanket across the back seats of the car. Managing to get the center seatbelt around him he snapped it in place and went to start the car.

The boy mumbled, turned, but did not wake as they did this.

Dr. Mori closed the two doors carefully in the back and came around to the front. The car was already started and Richard was starting the heater up--though it wouldn't work at all for another ten minutes or so when the engine finally got heated.

"Thank you."

Akiko, who had for the most part been not really thinking looked curiously at Mr. Ishida.

"Thank you for watching and taking care of our boys. You don't know how much that means."

"You're welcome," she replied too startled to reply more articulately than that.

He began to close the door and she stepped back offering the only words that she could. "Drive safe, the roads are probably covered in black ice."

Richard nodded but said nothing more.

"We'll do everything we can to help your son Mr. Ishida. I give you my word."

His hard eyes softened considerably at that and he glanced over the seat to little Yamato in the back seat. His eyes spoke words that he did not voice and then he closed the door.

Drawing her coat tighter she waved a slight salute before turning and jogging out of the lot and towards the breakfast place. She was the first to admit that she absolutely hated cold weather.

The car pulled out and away, headed opposite most of the regular traffic on its way to work that morning rush hour.

'Only 14 odd hours to go!' she thought. Why did it feel like that was going to be a little longer than that today?

To be continued